Harrogate RUFC’s new director of rugby says he saw an improvement in his side’s performance, despite a second defeat of the season, to Tynedale.
After kicking off their National League Two North campaign with a loss to Hinckley, Dave Doherty’s men went down 20-16 in Northumberland on Saturday.
The former Yorkshire Carnegie winger donned a Harrogate jersey for the first time at Tynedale, replacing injured fly-half Charlie Morgan after 20 minutes and immediately made his presence felt with a penalty goal.
However, his presence on the field could not stop Tynedale scoring two telling tries either side of the break.
On whether his side stepped up from their opening day defeat, Doherty said: “It came in fits and starts. We played some good stuff in patches but were a little bit of inaccurate again.
“We are still learning. There’s a lot of changes for a lot of players and they have different things to adapt to.
“The conditions were great for us and we played a lot of rugby but it’s just a matter of consistency now.”
The game started with waves of Harrogate attacks and dominant scrummaging forced Tynedale’s pack to concede a penalty.
Morgan’s kick made it 3-0 after five minutes play.
The Harrogate pressure continued with powerful Willem Enslin runs challenging the home defence. A high tackle on him gave Harrogate another penalty which Morgan duly kicked.
Hooker Tom Larder was then forced off with a rib injury before Morgan required treatment after rolling his ankle, forcing Doherty to take the field.
Tynedale came into the game and were awarded a penalty which gave them an attacking line-out.
Flanker, Ben Haigh drove over for a try converted by Ash Smith to give Tynedale a one-point lead.
A sharp Doherty break was then well supported by Alex Nesbitt and Tynedale went offside in defence for the director of rugby to slot over his first penalty in a Harrogate shirt and put Harrogate back in front.
But, on the stroke of half time, a powerful driving maul was penalised and Smith’s kick made it 10-9 at the break.
Harrogate continued to dominate the set pieces in the second half but Joe Mills, Tynedale’s inspirational captain was at the heart of home attacks from limited possession. Scott Powell, their No8 and a former Harrogate player, was held up over the goal line but the home pressure continued and Haigh crashed over for his second converted try.
A strong run from defence by Harrogate full back, Harry Barnard set up a counter attack but a knock-on ended the move. A Tynedale pass was then intercepted by Jonny Giles who made a 40 metres break before being overhauled just short of the home goal line.
Tynedale came back into attack but Harrogate stole another line-out from them and Morgan, who’d returned to the field , relieved the pressure with an excellent clearance.
Harrogate then set up a succession of attacking driving mauls and, when the ball was released, a wide Doherty miss-pass to the left led to a Jonny Coser try converted by Doherty.
This made the score 17-16 and both sides continued to attack at every opportunity.
However, the final score came from a Smith penalty after Harrogate were adjudged to have come in from the side at a breakdown.
Doherty added: “We are always out there to win but to go away from home and go close, we have to take the positives and move on.
“We are still learning and we will be throughout the season.” Harrogate face South Leicester at Rudding Lane this Saturday, another team to have lost both opening fixtures.
However, the Midlanders have had two narrow defeats against high-flying pair Leicester Lions and Stourbridge.
Morgan should be fit to keep the fly-half shirt but Larder faces a fitness test.
Doherty said: “I know they have recruited well and have quite a few players that I played against in the Premiership.
“It’s going to be a really tough game. We know they have had two narrow losses and will be wanting to get that first win on the board.”